It may come to no surprise but there are many activities employees do throughout their work day that waste time. While some workplace time wasters can be difficult to control, such as long meetings or technological failures, some of the biggest culprits include surfing the Internet and social media sites, personal phone calls and e-mails and gossiping around the coffee machine. Granted that taking the occasional break can help the mind refuel and refocus, how much “wasted time” are employers willing to accept? According to Inc.com, 61 percent of workers admitted to wasting 30 minutes to an hour a day. Even though this may not seem overwhelming, even 30 minutes each day adds up to 2.5 hours a week and 130 hours each year for employers. So, how can employers control these common time wasters to ensure productivity is maintained? Furthermore, what do employers need to know when they suspect an employee is wasting too much time?
Have a clear policy
It is essential for companies to have a formal policy regarding personal internet, e-mail and phone usage. In this policy, employers must specify that workstations are to be used to business purposes only and that sites and internet usage will be monitored. Further to this policy, it is equally important to highlight that cellphones should be put on vibration mode and should be used during breaks only. Although the latter is hard to monitor, we encourage managers to speak to employees individually in the case that they find cellphone usage to be excessive. Nonetheless, the policy should specify that non-adherence to these policies will have disciplinary repercussions. Lastly, should ever employees be filmed while working, or have GPS monitors on company-owned vehicles, employees must be notified, if not the employer could risk violating the employee’s right to privacy. These policies should be easily accessible and communicated regularly to employees, especially new hires.
Keep your employees challenged!
One of the top reasons employees claim to waste time is because they are not challenged enough. Managers should take the time to understand what their employee’s goals are and what keeps them motivated. Ask your employees: “What are you passionate about? What motivates you?” Having these discussions can enable managers to delegate more meaningful and challenging work which, in turn, will make employees less bored and less likely to waste their time.
Clear deadlines and priorities
Managers should be touching base with their employees at least once a week to go over their project/task list, determine the top priorities and set clear and realistic deadlines. It is further encouraged, if possible, for managers to “check-in” with their employees to see how things are progressing. If it is suspected that employees are not meeting their deadlines despite the frequent follow-up, then it could be a sign that they are wasting too much time.
Before scrutinizing or questioning your employee on the assumption that he/she is wasting time, a manager should have reasonable motive (ie: never meeting clear deadlines, witnessing or overhearing long phone calls), or will risk aggravating the employee with unfounded accusations. If needed, investigate. A manager, along with HR, can start by asking IT for a thorough report on the employee’s recent internet usage or can ask for security to pull out any available video surveillance. Once a thorough investigation has been done, an employer can start the disciplinary process with the employee regarding his/her unproductivity and wasting of time during workhours.
To conclude, although it is very hard for companies to control common workplace time wasters, there are several ways to avoid abuse and maintain control. This can be achieved through having a formal policy, checking in on your employees regularly and keeping them motivated!